Jackie Bradley Jr. was on his way to Triple-A Pawtucket following an offseason in which he was projected to be the Boston Red Sox starting center fielder. His course was suddenly re-directed when a hamstring injury put right fielder Shane Victorino on the DL and subsequently yo-yoed Bradley Jr. back onto the Sox roster.
After only nine games this season, it has become very clear that Bradley Jr. is the best defensive outfielder on the team. He has shown an uncanny ability to track down tough fly balls with ease and has already made several highlight-reel plays. He has also produced at the plate hitting .400 with a .978 OPS. Bradley is forcing Boston to rethink its current outfield depth chart when Victorino returns.
Johnny Gomes’ and Daniel Nava‘s defensive inefficiencies have become increasingly exposed without Victorino’s gold glove in right field. Every Sox fan can almost see the sand clearing out of the hour-glass every time Grady Sizemore dives or slams into the center field wall. There have been murmurs amongst Red Sox nation about possibly moving Sizemore to left field upon Victorino’s return and making Bradley Jr. the full-time center fielder. This would greatly reduce the role of the Gomes/Nava platoon and possibly open one of them up to a trade. With Mike Carp also part of the corner outfield logjam, you would have to assume there is more value in a trade then demoting any of the Red Sox outfielders to the minors. Sliding Sizemore to left greatly decreases the amount of ground he has to cover while reducing the risk of injury as well.
An outfield of Sizemore/Bradley Jr./Victorino would arguably give the Red Sox one of the best defensive outfields in baseball without having to sacrifice offensive punch. Had Victorino not been put on the DL, Bradley would likely still be in Pawtucket; and, would have never had the opportunity to showcase his phenomenal defense on the national stage. Even if Bradley struggles to hit, his premium defensive abilities and consistently strong on-base skills should be more than enough to keep him at the end of the Boston lineup.